Resume Format

Resume Format

In the last chapter, Ch. 2: The Best Typefaces and Fonts for Your Resume, we covered the best (and worst) typefaces and fonts for your professional healthcare resume. Here, in chapter three, we will move along and discuss the three professionally recognized and widely accepted resume formats that recruiters have come to expect from candidates.

Recruiters have come to expect specific layouts when browsing resumes and searching for candidates to fill their positions, so it's vital to learn how to how to format a resume properly.Doing so will help make you look professional and will, ideally, help inspire the recruiter to pick up the phone to schedule an interview.

In contrast, if your resume is in complete disarray and difficult for them to extract information from, you may be quickly rejected. An easy way to avoid this mistake is to follow one of the three tested resume formats that have and will continue to be the cornerstones of resume-building.


Why Your Resume Format Is Important

Selecting the right format for your resume is just as critical as the information placed upon it. Different resume formats convey different messages to healthcare recruiters, and if you convey the wrong message you might not receive further consideration for the position.

Resumes are in most cases, the first point of reference for a recruiter or hiring manager to learn a bit about you. If your resume isn’t formatted properly, is difficult to read, or deemed inappropriate, the recruiter will most likely pass over you.

In addition, as healthcare recruiters and hiring managers increasingly use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to review and evaluate resumes, the resume format will need to be formatted in such a way that it will convey the experience and skills you wish to convey for the desired position.

ATS’ are increasingly using artificial intelligence to evaluate resumes and cut down on review cost and time, so the resume format needs to be easy to read for the artificial intelligence programs that are reading resume submissions.

The correct resume format will attract the attention of a healthcare recruiter, but should avoid distracting them and make your accomplishments and skills difficult to find.


Applicant Tracking Systems and Resume Format

Increasingly, healthcare recruiters and hiring managers are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help sort through candidates quicker, and your resume format needs to reflect the changing environment for sorting and hiring qualified candidates.

Applicant tracking systems are software tools that are designed to help sort through resumes and applications quickly, much in the same way that a healthcare recruiter or hiring manager would. These applicant tracking systems are now sorting through applications and resumes without human interference, whereas previously they were used to just collect and store resume and applicant data.

This means that using the right resume format is vital for those who want to stand out amongst other qualified candidates, and also convey the appropriate skills and experience for the desired job posting.

Employers, healthcare recruiters, and hiring managers are increasingly turning to these applicant tracking systems to cut down on hiring cost and time, as many applicant tracking systems can use existing tools to set mandatory skills or education metrics to filter the candidate pool.

If your resume isn’t formatted properly to convey the required skills and experience, you might be passed over on accident.

Applicant tracking systems can filter through various file formats and pull different pieces of information off the resume for healthcare recruiters to review at a later date. A poor resume format will make the applicant tracking system pull the wrong information, or skip over vital information — therefore it is important to get the resume format correct the first time around.

Applicant Tracking System


Choosing a Resume Format

Depending on your situation, the position you're applying to, and/or the company that you're interested in, different resume formats will be needed. It's up to you to decide which is most appropriate. Thankfully, we've created this resume-building guide to help you as you start the process. Below, you'll find each format, when and when not to use each, and resume format examples.


1. Reverse Chronological

A reverse chronological resume format is traditionally the most familiar and widely used format, thanks to how the information is streamlined and easily interpreted for the reader from top to bottom. With a reverse chronological resume, your healthcare or hospital jobs are displayed from most recent at the top to oldest at the bottom.

This format helps highlight your most recent employment, skills, and accomplishments in a chronological format that is easy to read. These resumes are often designed with limited flair, basic design choices, and often designed with the intent to get the “need to know” information across.

These resumes place a focus on employment positions, dates, job details, skills used, and accomplishments in your career. This format is easiest to read for healthcare recruiter and hiring managers to understand your experience and how you might be a potential fit for the healthcare position.

If you are looking for a resume that will convey important information quickly, the reverse chronological resume format is the one to use.

It is not recommended to use a reverse chronological resume format if you have extended gaps in your employment history, have changed jobs at a frequent pace, or are currently looking for a different career in a separate industry.

Use reverse chronological if:

Avoid reverse chronological if:

You want to emphasize positions, career growth, and achievement by showing continuous professional development.

You have extended gaps in your employment history.

You’re applying to a position that is aligned with your career goals and experience.

You’ve changed jobs quickly in the past, implying that you’re not dedicated to one position.

You have few gaps and want to logically display you career information in a clear way.

You’re looking to make a jump from one career to another.

The reverse chronological layout, top-to-bottom:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Professional Experience
  4. Education
  5. Skills
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

Reverse chronological resume example:

Reverse Chronological Resume Example

In our opinion, the reverse chronological format remains the all-around best resume format due to its simplification of information and easiness to understand.


2. Functional

The functional resume format de-emphasizes specific job titles and companies, highlighting skills gained and accomplishments instead. This format is typically used if the applicant has held many positions that are unrelated to the one they're applying for or if there are gaps in the applicant's work history.

In order to build a functional or skills-based resume, examine your skill areas and construct categories for each, ultimately targeting the position you intend to apply for. While this can be a great way to show off your acquired skills, ones that are often transferable to many positions, the drawback of using this format is that employers can find it somewhat confusing or more difficult to interpret, since your positions are not listed in chronological order.

While this resume format isn’t as popular as the chronological resume format, it is useful for those who wish to highlight their skills and accomplishments. The functional resume format is best for those who typically have a non-traditional career path.

The functional resume format caters to those who have been out of work for some time, or are currently looking to make a career change. If you do not have more than ten years of previous work experience, healthcare recruiters and hiring managers might simply skip over this resume simply due to the fact that it appears unprofessional if not done properly.

In other words, the margin of error for this resume format is slim. It takes a lot of work and meticulous care to ensure you convey the proper skills and accomplishments to be considered for a position.

It is recommended that the skills and accomplishments listed on the resume are exceptional, otherwise the candidate might appear unqualified for the respective position. One must also seek caution when highlighting skills and previous accomplishments to avoid appearing as if you are attempting to hide your work history.

It is recommended to use a functional resume if you are looking to apply to a position that is similar to your existing position, and have minimal employment gaps.

It is best to avoid a functional resume if you are looking to jump to a separate career industry, or have several career employment gaps.

Because functional resumes are difficult to get right, job seekers tend to go with other resume formats on our list.

Use functional if:

Avoid functional if:

You’re looking to apply to a position within, or closely related to, your field.

You’re looking to jump into a new career path or industry.

You have minimal gaps in your employment history.

You’ve frequently switched positions and have many gaps in employment.

You want to portray your experience in a linear.


The functional layout:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Skills
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

Functional resume example:

Functional Resume Example

In the healthcare setting, the reverse chronological format is often preferred over the functional resume format, however, it’s best to use whichever format highlights you in the best possible way.


3. Combination

The combination resume format is simply a hybrid of the reverse chronological and the functional formats. The appearance of the combination resume format is similar to that of the chronological resume.

It differs from the chronological resume format in that it highlights skills and accomplishments with as much emphasis on previous experience as well.

It puts the spotlight on achievements and skills, while still including your former positions and employers within any skill categories that you construct.

It is recommended to use the combination resume format if you wish to emphasize a central skill that would apply to the position, exceptional experience, or would like to make a career change into another field or industry.

It is best to avoid the combination resume format if you have little experience, have changed jobs quickly in the past, or are looking to jump from one career to the next.

Use combination if:

Avoid combination if:

You want to emphasize a central, relevant, and highly-developed skill for the position you’re applying to.

You have little experience, are an entry-level candidate, or a student.

You’re very experienced and are highly-skilled in every aspect of your skill.

You’ve changed jobs quickly in the past, implying that you’re not dedicated to one position.

You want to make a career change and jump into another field.

You’re looking to make a jump from one career to another.

The combination format:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Skills
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

The reverse chronological format is used in conjunction with the skills-based elements of the functional resume to create a combination style resume:

Combination Style Resume



Depending on your situation and the position you're applying to, any of these resume formats can be viable choices for your intended healthcare position. Carefully consider each of the above options, and the reasons to use one versus another, and start building your resume from there.

Of these three resume formats, we recommend staying with the tried-and-true reverse chronological format whenever possible. It streamlines your information, it’s easy to interpret, and frankly, it’s easier to create than the others due to the amount of existing templates and formatting options available today.

However, if you have a good reason to use the other formats, like large gaps in employment or career changes, please don’t hesitate to use your other resume-building options. We have compiled a useful table for each use, to help guide you in which resume format to use.


Next: Ch. 4: Resume Action Verbs